Sunday, August 5, 2018

10 Habits of the Happiest

Blog by Tracy Butz, Think Impact Solutions

Forget complicated theories. Feeling happier tomorrow, than you are today, just might be as easy as practicing these 10 simple, yet powerful, patterns of behavior:
  1. Treat kindness like confetti. Toss it around for everyone to enjoy, and as if it were free. Oh ya, kindness is free. It’s not only free, but available to everyone to both give and receive. You don’t have to be tall, young, thin, rich or beautiful to share it. You only need to express it by throwing it up in the air so that anyone who is ready and willing to feel it, does. When you demonstrate kindness to others, perhaps by offering a nice compliment or opening the door for another person, the chances of that individual sprinkling some kindness toward someone else dramatically increases.
  2. Start every day with a smile. While smiling is often viewed as a reaction to a positive feeling, it can also be used to initiate joy. Consider a positive memory, perhaps looking at a fun photograph. It’s pretty difficult to remain angry, frustrated or disappointed when a smile is suddenly felt. A good rule to start every day with is to look in the mirror and smile. You gotta brush your teeth anyway, so just consider yourself not fully dressed and ready to go until you’ve put on a smile.
  3. Quiet “The Chatter.” Instead of listening to self-deprecating statements we tell ourselves or the negative chants repeated in our minds, quiet the vindictive voices with motivating mantras like, “I know I can do this,” or “I am an excellent communicator and ready for this challenge.” Instead of being your own worst enemy, choose to be your very best friend.
  4. Stop to smell the flowers…literally. Enjoying simple moments, like smelling fragrant flowers or listening to chirping birds, can bring a sense of calm and happiness that grounds you. “Stopping to smell the flowers” is also a reminder to slow down and enjoy the beauty of life. Live in the present with a deeper sense of love, gratitude and appreciation for all the incredible blessings life offers.
  5. Listen to music and sing along. Just like melancholy songs supplement a sad mood, cheerful and upbeat tunes compliment or trigger a happy mood. And according to the University of Manchester researchers, a tiny organ in the inner ear—called the sacculus—is connected to a part of your brain that registers pleasure. And when you sing, the sacculus registers frequency notes, giving you a warm and nostalgic feeling. So go ahead and belt out the words to your favorite beat.
  6. Frolic with a furry friend. In addition to companionship, pets can provide numerous other health benefits—both psychological and physical—like reducing stress, promotes social interaction, and encourages physical activity, to name a few. There are few things as consistent as coming home from work and being greeted by an excited dog, ready to engage you and demonstrate their affection.
  7. Infuse vitamin D. The human body produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun's rays, and research suggests that those who are deficient in the vitamin are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and tired. When possible, soak up the sunshine—with caution, of course—to lighten your mood naturally. On days when the rays don’t cooperate, a surprising source of vitamin D can also be found in mushrooms. So throw some mushrooms into your breakfast omelet or lunchtime salad and enjoy a quick vitamin D boost of serotonin in your brain, magically enhancing your mood. And for non-mushroom lovers, there is still yet another solution: chocolate! Chocolate contains tryptophan, which also boosts the production of serotonin in the brain, leading to more delighted dispositions.
  8. Eagerly exercise. Instead of declaring, “I’m too tired to exercise,” boost your energy and brighten your outlook with a short walk, meditation, rhythmic breathing, yoga, or relaxation techniques. Quell anxiety, promote serenity, and lift your mood—while also tightening your tush.
  9. Get more zzzzz’s. It’s been said that you only really need six hours of sleep a night to feel rested and ready-to-go the next day. However, I know I need nine or ten hours to be at my best. In fact, I have found that I am a more patient, friendlier, and less sensitive to negative emotions when I get the shuteye my body demands. Stay tuned into what your unique sleep requirements are, rather than those of others, and concede to those needs freely.
  10. Spend time with people who matter. Disconnect from the rat-race of life and instead, reach out and connect with a trusted friend or family member. Meaningful and positive relationships offer support, love and guidance, which enriches our lives and provides a greater sense of purpose. Direct time and attention to those who mean the most to you and reap the benefits those real and lasting relationships offer. 
There is only one person that can make you feel happy. You. Take charge of how you feel today. Choose happiness by engaging in these 10 simple habits. Here’s to a happier you!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

When Life Throws You a Curve Ball

Blog by Tracy Butz, Think Impact Solutions

Tough stuff happens to all of us. What do you do when life throws you a curve ball? I do my best to dive hard and shout, “Got it!” And when that doesn’t work, I heed my own advice with these five strategies: 

  1. Accept the new situation or challenge. When a challenging situation is viewed as the possibility to learn something new, you tend to resist it less and embrace it more.
  2. Swerve from your routine. Understanding that changes will happen, allows us to establish new ways of doing or looking at something. You may even discover a hidden talent you didn’t know you had.
  3. Add some humor in your life. Whether you pay to see a comedian, view some funny videos on You Tube, read a witty book, or talk with an amusing friend. I find a dose of humor helps keep the tears at bay…and potentially, the doctor away.
  4. Kill it with kindness. Being kind to others, even when you feel down, helps others to demonstrate kindness to you too. And aren’t more genuine gestures of kindness something we all need?
  5. Seek a little adventure. Whether it is choosing to zipline, indoor skydive (like I just did with my boys last week when they visited!), or try something else—stepping out of your comfort zone puts your mind in a challenging and exciting place where you likely aren’t able to focus on the recent twist. 

As I frequently remind audiences, every day is a great day when I don’t have daisies growing over my head. So choose to make today the best day ever!

What is Holding You Back?

Blog from Tracy Butz, Think Impact Solutions

Success means different things to each of us. Do you consider yourself successful? Are there aspects in your life where you want to be more successful? For many of us, the answer is, “yes.” But one question I often ask my audiences or participants in a workshop is, “Do you know what is holding you back from being more successful?”
I encourage you to consider, what’s holding you back from…

  • Taking the next step in your career?
  • Setting the next stretch goal in your personal life?
  • Envisioning a brighter future for yourself?  

Unfortunately, FEAR is a common answer I hear. The truth is…fear kills dreams. Most people don’t live their dreams because of fear. FEAR is described as – False Evidence of Appearing Real – it’s an illusion you create in your mind.  It’s the product of the thoughts you create. On the other hand, danger is very real, but not fear. Perhaps you struggle with the fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of rejection, or fear of something else, like not being selected for the promotion you desire, not achieving your wellness goal this year, being unable to fix a relationship issue with a team member, or maybe not being able to learn or do everything you are expected to do in your job.

Courageously facing fears can be daunting. But as I was once reminded, you can have courage or you can have comfort, but you can’t have both. They are mutually exclusive.

Rather than letting your fears hinder your desire to succeed, face your fear. Here are a few ways I have faced my own personal fears: 
  • Consider the worst outcome if your fear happens. (Often times, the “worst” isn’t that bad.)
  • Expose yourself to the fear. (Avoiding fear makes it scarier. Face it to help overcome it.)
  • Don’t expect perfection.  (Look at mistakes as an opportunity to do it better next time.)
  • Talk about your fear with someone you trust.
  • Write down your fear on paper; this activity helps to rationalize it.
  • Consider what aspects of your fear you do control. Consider ways to improve those areas.
  • Don’t focus on pain; focus on success (explained below). 

As noted in the last bullet point above, don’t focus on what’s painful—which is the process of what it takes to make something happen (including potential failure). Because if you focus on the pain, chances of achieving your goal decreases. Pain is temporary—eventually it will subside. But if you quit—it will last forever. Instead, focus on what you want; focus on what success looks like today. For example, if you have a goal to lose 20 pounds, don’t focus on the 10th or 20th pound; instead, focus on today’s plan to eat healthy and incorporate some exercise into your day. Which one seems less daunting to you?

Understanding what is holding you back is the starting point to making your dreams come true and to achieving the success you not only desire…but deserve!

Three Habits to Foster Extraordinary Relationships

A Blog by Tracy Butz, Think Impact Solutions

Have you ever had time elapse between a relationship with either a friend or a colleague, and then when you re-connect, it’s as if you picked up exactly where you left off? If so, I would say you both had the privilege of sharing an extraordinary relationship.

Extraordinary relationships are built and enhanced through ordinary, yet meaningful, actions. These numerous small acts of kindness, respect and understanding are displayed both consciously and unconsciously. If you want to raise the bar on your relationships, here are three habits to take them to the next level:
  1. Give consistently, receive occasionally. Those who build great relationships don't think about what they want; instead, they start by thinking about what they can give. They approach building relationships as if it's all about the other person and not about them—and in the process—they build relationships with others who follow the same approach. In time, they make authentic connections and become genuine friends.
  2. Listen with the intent of understanding, not replying. Research shows that only about 10 percent of us listen effectively—often distracted by technology or our own thoughts. Resist the temptation of considering how to jump in to tell your own story, offer advice, or even make a judgment. Instead, choose to engage in actively listening to the other person’s words and body language—because when you do, relationships prosper and levels of trust grow deeper.
  3. Step in without being asked. It’s both common and easy to help when asked; but very few people offer help before they’ve been asked—even though most of the time that is when a little help will make the greatest impact. Those who build extraordinary relationships pay close attention so they can tell when others are struggling. This demonstration of an empathetic and caring heart enables others to truly appreciate the heartfelt support and assistance, and will also more often times accept the help being offered. 
Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, a dear friend whom I’ve known for many years—yet only in the last year have re-connected with—chose to make the trip out to Colorado from Wisconsin. Not only was it an incredible gesture, but we had an amazing time together! We toured the undeniable breathtaking beauty of Red Rock together (home of Red Rocks Amphitheatre), danced and belted out famous tunes sung live in concert by Taylor Swift, and even dined at some of the most exquisite eateries—like downtown Denver’s Ocean Prime and the infamous Butz’s Bistro with Culinary Craftsman, Kirt Butz (my amazing husband who could be a world-renowned chef if he wanted to). We took in a fun and non-competitive round of Top Golf (as the golfing experts we are…NOT!), squeezed in a little time to indulge in retail therapy at the fabulous FlatIron Crossing shopping center and mall, but most importantly, simply enjoyed each other’s company and meaningful conversation. The relationship I have with my friend, Lisa, is certainly extraordinary and one that I will treasure forever.

Make today the day you choose to foster an extraordinary relationship you hold dear.  

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do

Blog by Tracy Butz, Think Impact Solutions

What is the meaning of the phrase, "Hard work pays off"?

From my perspective, it means that by exerting an intense effort of sweat equity and focused execution, you can achieve the goal you set for yourself. It means rather than relying on luck, set a solid plan and work hard toward it, reaping the fruits of your labor when you accomplish it. After all, you don’t get what you wish for; you get what you work for.

Will there be obstacles? Yes.
Will there be mistakes? Yes.
But with hard work and determination, there are no limits.

As many of my loyal followers know, one of my passions is landscaping—which to me, is the art of beautifying an outdoor space by designing and reshaping visible features of an area of land in an aesthetic, eye-appealing and creative way. And yesterday, I completed a project that I have dreamed about since moving out to Colorado last fall.

See, in Colorado, residential areas often include more rock than grass. And one side of our home landscape was covered 100% in river rock, which lends very little curb appeal, and quite honestly, can be extremely difficult to walk on to get from the back yard to the front. So after our stamped concrete patio was professionally installed, I knew it was time to design a paver walkway that would bring a savvy solution to our issue, offer a creative flair that is unique and beautiful, and achieve an artistic sense of accomplishment that would provide years of enjoyment. Yesterday, my hard work paid off!

Yesterday I finished my dream of designing, planning and executing a 48 foot paver walkway! It started with moving an incredible amount of large river rock with a small hand rake, cutting out the weed barrier, digging through hard clay to form a curvy path, hauling and/or rolling super heavy Goldrush natural patio stones (approx. 16-in x 24-in x 2-in) one at a time, applying polymeric sand under the rocks, laying countless bags of paver sand, spreading even more bags atop the sand with paver base, and lastly placing a layer of decorative pea pebbles to complete the design. Here are several pictures of our natural stepping stone pathway.

Were there obstacles throughout this project? Absolutely! One example was realizing that the natural type of rock I wanted was so heavy that hoisting each of the 26 rocks out of my vehicle and essentially dropping them one at a time into a wagon before hauling them to the side of the house was EXTREMELY labor-intensive…more than I had ever imagined.

Were there mistakes? Yes, again. Because I wanted a varied paver shape and color-scheme, I determined that I had too many of one color and shape, and ended up having to return and replace five of the rocks—which certainly added even more sweat equity to the endurance and pain of the pathway project.

We all have skills and talents unique to us. And utilizing our talents to the best of our ability is essential to helping us make our dreams come true. But remember, dreams don’t work unless you do.

Dig deep and put forth a lot of hard work and determination in your next professional or personal project/initiative—and watch your dream become a reality.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Rethink Inclusion

Blog by Tracy Butz, Think Impact Solutions 

In the last five years, there has been an estimated 800% increase in virtual/mobile workers. (The Nemertes Research Group). And if you want and need engaged workers from afar, thinking differently about how to help them feel included and part of the team is critical.

One aspect that is rarely exercised for remote workers is building camaraderie and connection through team-building activities. Yes, team-building! Sadly, 65% of remote employees report that they have never participated in a team-building activity. Team-building not only enhances collaboration, but it also decreases isolation. If you want to encourage synergy, promote trust and enhance cooperation with your remote teams—incorporating collaboration activities is essential! Here are eight helpful strategies to consider trying:

1. Social Networking. You don’t have to invite coworkers to be your friend on Facebook.  But team members can interact through private LinkedIn groups or Yammer pages.  Yammer is like Facebook, but for the corporate setting. According to company statistics, more than 80% of the Fortune 500 is already using Yammer to build employee connections.

2. Get Personal. Spend a few minutes at the start of each meeting getting those personal updates. Take it one step further and ask team members to send a recent photo to the event organizer. Assemble those into a slide deck to review at the meeting.

3. Virtual Happy Hour or Coffee Break. Teams all need time to bond with each other outside of their work roles, so top virtual teams take time for a virtual happy hour or coffee break. This is a designated time where team members can connect via chat, conference call, or media to discuss personal and/or professional topics. Some teams have gone so far as to post a “Personal Conversations Only” note on their virtual bar.  It’s a time to connect on a personal level, have a little fun and unwind. This engagement is usually a non-mandatory and bring-your-own-drinks event.

4. Rotational Leadership. Most members of high-performance teams are fully capable of leading themselves and the group, but unfortunately, they don’t often get a chance. Rotational leadership allows each team member to lead the team—whether it’s simply heading up the weekly phone call, planning a monthly team building activity, or organizing an educational event.

5. Shared Learning. Think of it as the book group model of team building. Classes, book discussions, and virtual conferences are a way for team members to connect around professional issues, apart from day-to-day work matters. Look for opportunities for virtual team members to attend the same webinar, read a business-related book, or log in to a company conference. Afterwards, connect via phone, Yammer, or instant message to discuss the takeaways.

6. Acknowledgement Round Robin. More than any other reason, team members leave when they don’t feel a sense of acknowledgment or recognition. Establish a habit of sharing acknowledgements to boost morale. During your text team meeting, ask members to share two specific, timely acknowledgments—one for themselves and one for someone else.

7. Ice Breakers with a Purpose. We can learn so much about people through powerful questions. Their answers tell a lot about their personality, work style and values. Try asking a question like this to start your next meeting: “What is something you’ve always want to try, but haven’t yet?”

8. Virtual Polling. Using the polling function in your virtual meeting software, ask a quick round of questions about personal and professional questions to get a read on attitudes and preferences. For example, you could ask, “What is your favorite form of communication—text, phone, email, in-person meetings?” or “What time of day do you feel most energized?”   

These are just a few ways to build virtual teams.  If you have an in-office team in addition to remote team members, look for ways to include the virtual group whenever possible. 

For example, it might not make sense to conference someone in to cut a birthday cake, but you can send them a card signed by their office teammates.  They can’t join the office fun run, but they can take part in wellness activities if you provide a way to track activity points online. It’s really just a matter of rethinking inclusion.

Monday, February 5, 2018

When is Enough, Enough?

Blog by Tracy Butz, Think Impact Solutions

This morning I heard a radio broadcaster say that she felt sorry for Tom Brady. Even though he won five Super Bowl rings as a Patriot already, she felt bad for him that he and his team didn’t walk away with the Lombardi Trophy yesterday. I found that comment very interesting. I could see if she was a huge Patriots fan, but she wasn’t. That comment got me thinking…when is enough, enough?

When are enough Super Bowl rings enough? When are enough fans or followers enough? When is enough money enough?

I thought back to my 20s and considered the various jobs I had and how I longed for more money. I felt I didn’t have nearly enough. If $12,000 then $18,000 wasn’t enough, what about $30,000? Then came a nice raise, a significant bonus, and then a promotion. But was that enough?

Consider this. If you won or earned one million dollars, would you take risks and work hard to increase that number to five million? Suppose you had five million—would you consider yourself wealthy enough to relax and pursue non-monetary goals, or would you push onward to reach ten million dollars?

When is enough, enough?

This is a question I’ve pondered throughout my life. It’s not a simple question, but one I have found important to allow me to re-focus and bring greater awareness to true meaning in my life. And even though this is a very personal question, it’s true that you pay a price to continue onward and upward, and you pay a price to stop.

As I contemplated “enough”, I thought through several examples:
  • My husband and I own one bed for us and one futon for company. I don’t see a need for another one.
  • My husband and I each own a somewhat modest vehicle. It would be fun to drive around a sports car on date nights, but we certainly don’t need one.
  • A new handbag is something I treat myself to on occasion, but how many handbags does a women really need? The answer is one, maybe two, but certainly not more. Yet, I do own more than two.

So the question I began to ask myself was, “Does having more than two handbags offer me more happiness?” The answer for me is, “No, not really.” And does having more than two take more time out of my day to swap handbags and transfer everything from one to another? Yes, it certainly does. So it is possible to have too much of a good thing? Can less actually be better than more? Once again, the answer for me was, “Yes.”

I then considered, at what point does more money become meaningless in terms of quality of my life?

As a fairly new resident of Colorado, moving to this state from Wisconsin was a huge shock in terms of cost of living. One example is our home, which was about double the price than in WI for similar quality and square footage. I find myself saying, “If we had a little extra money, we could…” But I’m not sure that is true.

My sister recently visited us from out of state. We had a fabulous time hanging out and experiencing new places together, one being Red Rocks Amphitheater & Park. I’ve always wanted to see this geological marvel with a breath-taking panoramic view of Denver and beyond. She recommended eating at the famous restaurant located onsite called Ship Rock Grille. What an amazing experience, which I can describe as incredible awe.  

As I reflect back on the adventure to Red Rocks, it clearly didn’t take a lot of money (gas and lunch) to engage in an incredible experience, but it did take some time and descent health to maneuver around. Likewise, enjoying the company of my sister, niece and nephew-in-law didn’t cost me much money while they were here, but it did require some time to spend with them, cultivating and growing those relationships—which I very much enjoyed doing and personally value tremendously.

So then I got to thinking, “Can more money actually lead to less happiness and perhaps even less freedom?”

Look at famous football players, for instance. They have the ability to buy what they want, but they don’t have the freedom to go where they want without becoming targets of unwanted attention. And when they can’t take their families out to a local venue for some fun because of being bothered for autographs, not only is their freedom limited, but so in the quality of their life experiences.

So the message I share today is that true happiness in life likely doesn’t come from having more; instead, it comes from nurturing what you already have deeper and more meaningfully. And just as those underdog Eagles rose above for the pinnacle football victory yesterday—they surely made a lot of money because of winning—but the experience for each of them as first-time champions will likely be the memory they fondly recall and share heartfelt stories about for many years to come.